Renovation & Design

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Renovation in condo unit requires careful planning

With the features mounted, the TV was angled slightly towards the room. (Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press)

The design layout was first mapped on the wall with green tape.

The structure was assembled then secured to the back wall.

Starting from the floor, horizontal rows of tile were set one by one, notching and mitering tiles at every cavity edge.

Once the feature unit was completed, the 50-inch flat-screen TV was hung and the inset 42-inch electric fireplace was secured into place.

Things get trickier when a renovation is requested within a condominium unit. The condo board must first approve the renovation plan. And depending on the type of work being done, this can sometimes take a while. Once the project is given a thumbs up, transporting the materials to the jobsite often reveals its own set of challenges.

In an effort to rid the living room of an awkward corner entertainment unit (that takes up too much space), a pleasant couple who live on the second floor of a large condominium building wanted a built-in feature unit that could house a large-screen TV, an inset electric fireplace, and a small shelf that allows easy access to the cable box, WiFi router, etc.

During the first site meeting, the details were discussed, and the project would get underway at my earliest convenience, in the hopes of completing it before the Christmas season.

The couple purchased a 50-inch flat screen TV for a great price from Visions Electronics on their own, to ensure it was on site before the project began. Having built a similar unit for another client recently, was the place to find an electric fireplace that caters to my clients’ desires, and the unit specs. A 42-inch fireplace that offers multiple colour options for both flame and stone, with a front blower for heat (a requirement for inset applications), was ordered and delivered the week prior to the build date. My clients were also shown a few tile options that week before. With the tile choice made, all materials were gathered and the project would get underway the following week as planned.

It took several trips up and down the elevator to eventually deliver the various materials required for this job — roughly 20 2x3 eight-foot long boards, four sheets of 1/2-inch drywall, several boxes of tile, the tile adhesive and grout, and a slew of various fasteners. And let’s not forget all my tools, the wet saw for tile cuts, and the electric fireplace itself.

The design of this feature unit strays from a typical design in a couple of ways. As a built-in set adjacent two walls, decorative tile was only needed on the front and right sides. And because of a protruding bulkhead in the area where my clients wanted the unit positioned, the top of the feature unit would not reach to the main ceiling — it would end at the underside of the bulkhead.

During the first day, the design was initially mapped on the wall with green tape, to allow my clients to visualize the design within the space. Once given the OK to proceed, the unit structure was constructed using the 2x3 lumber. The back side of the unit was framed and secured to the wall. The front side was then built to roughly a 10-inch depth with a 1.5-inch gap behind every tier to allow all cabling to be run efficiently, hidden from view. On the second day, drywall was fastened to all visible surfaces.

On Day three, a protective canvas tarp was laid along the floor before the tiling process began. A beautiful marble-esk, 4x16-inch tile would envelop the outer surfaces of the feature unit. A stark white tile would serve as a lower baseboard (cut to a four-inch height), and cover all inset surfaces withing the TV and lower shelf cavities. Starting from the floor and working my way up, the marble-esk tile was set one horizontal row at a time, cutting and mitering tiles as required for every inset cavity.

On the final day, the unit was grouted with a bright white resin-based grout, and the unit edges that meet either an existing wall or the flooring were caulked in a matching colour. The TV wall-mount scissor bracket was secured to the back wall with butterfly anchors, and the TV was positioned slightly angled towards the big of the living room. The cabling was run behind each tier to tie-in the router (set behind the TV for easy access) and cable box, which was placed within the lower shelf cavity. Once the TV was functioning properly, the inset fireplace was secured into place and tested. With a few days to spare, this built-in feature unit was ready for the big pre-Christmas reveal, and my clients were more than thrilled.

It had occurred to me prior to that first on-site visit that engaging in a condo reno might not be all that much fun — awaiting the condo board’s approval of the design, noise time constraints, the sheer effort needed to load in all the materials up and down the elevator — a daunting set of deterrents. The pleasant and welcoming atmosphere offered by my clients quickly washed away any concerns. And the satisfaction from the smiles on their faces upon the project’s completion made it all worth-while.



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